A big part of what we do at Revive & Restore is bring together scientists conducting cutting-edge genomics research with the conservationists who are working in the field so that these new technologies may become an instrumental part of the twenty-first century conservation tool kit. The efforts we take to be active on social media, to engage with journalists covering conservation issues, and to jump start key genetic rescue projects mean that the ideas of genetic rescue and de-extinction are becoming part of the conservation conversation. What we didn’t realize is that our work could be so profoundly inspiring to a young generation of scientists — one eleven-year-old passenger pigeon enthusiast and de-extinctionist to be exact, who was so excited by the idea of de-extinction that he published a novel in 2015 on the subject.
Chris is an average twelve year old boy. He finds out scientists are close to bringing passenger pigeons back from extinction on the news, and they need someone to finish the project. Chris thinks he can do it, but his dad does not. Chris has to sneak out of the house and lie to his dad. Can Chris bring passenger pigeons back from extinction?
— Ryan Lewis, Passengers Back, 2015
If you want to check out this short story — it’s available on Amazon. That’s where Ben Novak, lead researcher and science consultant for Revive & Restore’s “The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback,” stumbled across it.
After completing and enjoying Ryan’s Passengers Back, Ben left the following review:
“As a scientist researching passenger pigeons, I routinely search for new books on the subject, usually overlooking works of fiction. However, when I came across the description of an eleven-year-old author writing about bringing passenger pigeons back to life it caught my attention and catered to nostalgia. At thirteen years old, my science fair project was about the idea of how science might bring the dodo bird back to life. The experience of my science fair project was so rewarding I didn’t give up the notion that de-extinction would be possible someday, and today I lead a project to use modern genomic sciences to revive the extinct passenger pigeon. As someone steeped in the technicality of how our team at Revive & Restore will employ advancing biotechnologies to achieve our goal of ecological restoration it was a welcome and heartening reprieve to read an entertaining and creative take on how fictional twelve-year-old Chris remakes the passenger pigeon with some help from a remarkable secret family history while treading secretly himself to defy the limitations set upon him for his young age. This book is a truly fun story with some quirky surprises, and it was great to relive the thought process of adolescent-hood. If Ryan Lewis ever reads this, I do hope he pursues his passion for writing, and perhaps considers a future in the very real world of biotechnology for nature conservation. I’m looking forward to the sequel!”
Ben’s review did not go unnoticed; in fact, it appears to have significantly contributed to the rousing of Ryan’s enthusiasm for de-extinction. Just last week, Ryan wrote back, his passion for de-extinction apparent in every line.
If the field of genetic rescue (and de-extinction) needs anything, it’s the enthusiasm and devotion of young scientists like Ryan!
About the author (in his own words):
Ryan Lewis is an 11 year old boy that was born in Cincinnati, OH. He grew up in the small town of Harrison located within the greater Cincinnati area. His education began at the Harrison Co-Op preschool. He then went to Harrison Elementary and at the time he completed this book was just entering the William Henry Harrison Jr. High School. It took Ryan the entire fifth grade school year to complete this book and found it so rewarding he plans on writing more. Ryan lives with his family of five, not including his two dogs Cujo and Daisy. He has a mom named Seanna, a dad named Christopher, an older sister named Kristen and his grandma Hazel. He’s very close with his grandparents, Hazel, Peggy, and Ron. Ryan enjoys his time reading, playing video games, and playing with his dogs and friends.